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Wednesday’s Rugby News

Wednesday’s Rugby News

Wednesday’s Rugby News looks at a Super Rugby AU draw change, the new Waratahs halfback, a boost for players at the World Cup and Stan’s modern solution to an old problem.


Draw changes

Marika Koroibete post try Waratahs v Rebels Super Rugby 2020 (Credit - Keith McInnes Photography)

Rugby Australia has confirmed a change to the Super Rugby AU draw, with the Rebels and Brumbies swapping home fixtures.

This is as a result of the restrictions put in place by the WA Government on travellers from Melbourne, with the Force set to play the Rebels in round four.

Therefore, Round three’s clash between the two sides will now be played at GIO Stadium in Canberra on Saturday 6 March at 7.45 pm, with the reverse fixture between the two sides at AAMI Park in Melbourne in Round nine on Sunday 18th April at 2 pm.

The Rebels are currently based in Canberra as a result of the restrictions, with the change of fixture meaning that they will spend an extra fortnight in the nation’s capital.

“I want to thank Phil (Thomson) and the Brumbies, the Rugby Australia Return to Play Committee and our broadcast partners in Nine and Stan for their flexibility and support over the last few weeks,” Rebels chief executive Baden Stephenson said in a statement.

“We can’t wait to get back to Melbourne for our home game against the Waratahs in Round Five and play in front of the Rebels faithful at the Stockade.

“I also want to acknowledge our partners, and the Rebels players, staff and families for their continual sacrifice and tireless efforts for the benefit of the competition as a whole.”

Given the club was forced to relocate for the 2020 edition of the tournament, Rebels coach Dave Wessels praised the continual sacrifice that his players and their families had made to ensure that the comp could go ahead.

“I would like to echo Baden’s comments and pay special tribute to the families and friends of the Rebels playing group,” Wessels said.

“They sacrificed so much last year and we’re very grateful for their love and support. We can’t wait to get home and play in front of you over the back half of the season.”

World Cup boost

Rugby World Cup - William Web Ellis Trophy

Rugby World Cup – William Web Ellis Trophy

Rugby World Cup officials has confirmed that there will be a mandatory five day rest period between group stage games for the 2023 tournament, along with an increase in squad sizes as player safety takes centre stage.

The increase will see the group stages go on for a further week than 2019, with the tournament’s kick-off date changed to 8 September, concluding with the final on 28 October.

Permitted squad sizes will also be increased by two from 31 to 33 players, with the organisers putting player safety at the forefront.

“This is a landmark day for Rugby World Cup and the sport. As a rugby father, former player, fan and administrator, player welfare is at the very top of my agenda. This continued focus for a player-first decision reflects that commitment,” World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said.

“Men’s Rugby World Cup schedules are difficult to balance owing to the format of four pools of five teams. Japan 2019 provided the best balance and best-ever welfare outcomes, but we still had a limited number of relatively short rest periods between some matches.

“In collaboration with France 2023 and International Rugby Players, this decision means that every player and every team will have a fairer chance to perform to their potential in every fixture, and now we will work with the teams to reduce overall load for players. Including travel.

“On behalf of World Rugby and the France 2023 organising committee I would like to thank the host cities and venues, unions and players for embracing this opportunity. Together, I am convinced that we will deliver an amazing and indeed historic Rugby World Cup in what will be the 200th year of our sport.”

International Rugby Players representative on the Rugby World Cup Board Brian O’Driscoll added: “The game has become too physical and competitive for short turnarounds. All teams have found it tough, particularly those without the squad depth of the major nations.

“This is a positive step forward for the game and further demonstration of how International Rugby Players and World Rugby can work together towards better outcomes”.

Not by design

Jake Gordon needs some support

Jake Gordon needs some support

NSW Waratahs coach Rob Penney has praised the inspirational story of halfback Jack Grant as the part-time designer prepares to step up and fill the void left by injured captain Jake Gordon.

Gordon limped off during their 41-7 loss to the Reds in the opening round of the Super Rugby AU season, with scans confirming a syndesmosis injury that will keep him out for eight weeks.

This has put the son of former Wallaby and Balmain Tiger James Grant in line for a starting spot, a remarkable achievement given his rapid development.

After stints in the NRC and Japan, the 27-year-old was handed a Super Rugby contract after years of strong showings for Easts in the Shute Shield, leading the try-scorers list in 2019.

This comes as Grant juggled rugby commitments alongside his lifestyle brand North Bondi Motorino, which started out as a ‘social club for a group of mates who had just got bike licences’ according to their website.

“Jack’s one of the real success stories of a young guy who has persevered and stayed in a really good club environment and worked his way through and is really reaping the rewards of it,” Penney told Sporting News/myself.

“He’s not only a very mature player so we have no issues with his decision-making around the game but also a great athlete. He’s quick, got a lovely pass and he has a good kicking game, all the things you need in a halfback.

“It’s a great credit to his perseverance that he’s been now able to get an opportunity to get amongst it.”

His starting debut will be a difficult match-up as the Waratahs head to the ACT to face the defending premiers Brumbies, who opened their campaign with a 27-11 win over the Western Force in Perth.

“I think they have gone up another level than last year,” Penney said on the Brumbies.

“They wouldn’t have been totally happy with their performance but it’s a long way to go to travel and that takes it out of you.

“I thought they were a few degrees hotter than they were last year so they will be really challenging.”

Dear Stan

Filipo Daugunu scores a try

Filipo Daugunu scores a try

Stan’s launch over the past week has been deemed a resounding success, however, it has come with one problem.

Patrons and pubs and clubs were blacked out from watching the Brumbies v Force game as a result of a late disagreement with Stan Sport and Sky Channel to host the broadcast, leaving certain News Corps figures giddy.

This came as a result of the deal being done without the backing of a major Tabcorp official and the fear that Peter V’landys would hunt them down for daring to show another rugby code.

Well not exactly, it more had to do with them potentially limiting waging by turning off the Friday dogs/trots feed since he’s the boss of Racing NSW, as well as not being able to rely on Optus/Foxtel satellites due to a lack of coverage and care respectively.

This has caused them to think outside the box, with The Herald revealing that they will look at streaming the games through pubs via smart TVs if they can’t get a deal done before the NZ comp.

Whilst RA was confident that a deal could still be done, Herald/Stan officials were not as confident, leading to them coming up with the idea of broadcasting through smart televisions, Apple TV, Chromecast, Telstra TV or any other device which hosts the Stan app.

This would likely be unavailable for the second round of the competition, although could be pursued by the broadcaster, who finds it ‘an attractive option’.

Aside from this, all was well in the Nine/RA relationship, with the director of sport Brent Williams admitting that the initial figures, which was close to 200k, exceeded initial expectations.

“Friday night’s launch of Rugby on both Stan Sport and 9Gem was hugely successful, exceeding all expectations,” he said in a press release.

“We look forward to growing on this strong base as we continue to work closely with Rugby Australia, the teams and players to build our coverage throughout the season.”

It was a great start to our new partnership with Nine and Stan Sport and a special thanks must go to Hugh (Marks), Mike (Sneesby) and their broader team,” RA CEO Andy Marinos added.

“The community response has been overwhelming. People have been telling me how much they loved the new look and feel of the broadcast, the accessibility of the games as well as the quality on display.

“This is just the beginning though and we look forward to growing with Nine and Stan throughout the Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU season.”

  • Steve

    Good on the organisers for changing Brums/Rebels on the fly – Was always going to be a feature of the competition this year. Props to the Rebels for staying away from home for an extended period for the good of the competition as well, last season was undoubtedly tough for the Rebels and Force players.

    Waratahs sadly seem to be getting deeper into the hole every season – sad to see only negative direction in their recruiting. I don’t see how you can be down to a debutante halfback by Round 2.
    Probably playing with fire to say this as a Brumbies fan but I don’t give them a lot of chance this weekend.

    • Ads

      As a waratahs fan I agree with you. Recruitment has been woeful.

    • Nutorious

      I hope we can get a quick fix with a personnel change rather than there being some deeper underlying causes.

      Michael Cheika turned around a pretty awful regime quite quickly, and they declined just as quickly afterwards. Perhaps a forward looking coaching team could make a difference. I would be thinking perhaps trying to repair relations with Ewan McKenzie (there has been a lot of change in Australian Rugby so maybe it is possible?) looking at Ronan O’Gara at La Rochelle, Simon Cron at Toyota Verblitz…

      There are a lot of big personalities, big coaches who could be a right fit.

      • Yowie

        Hands-off Link!

        He is preserved in deep-freeze hypersleep in a secret facility for next time Qld Rugby needs him.

        • Crescent

          I heard he was going to come back when hell has frozen over.

          Hello Texas! Welcome back Link!

    • Crescent

      Brumbies are just wasting energy hating on the Tahs. They are going to put on a try fest at home – this Tahs side would have to be the weakest unit I have seen for some time, and it has only become weaker with injury and suspension.

      Unless they can do some serious recruiting, or uncover some more youth they can hang on to, it’s going to be a rough couple of seasons. Watch Penney get hung out to dry by the end of the year – the seeds of this were sown with Gibson’s shortcomings post Cheika.

      • Ads

        Agree mate. Hating on the ‘tahs at the moment is like hating on the runt of the litter. It’s just mean! Agree Gibson was poor but Penney hasn’t exactly set the world on fire either. If in the middle of Covid you can’t attract home some talent when the rest of the Rugby playing world is largely a basket case (Covid speaking) you have serious issues!

        • Crescent

          I feel for the likes of Harrison – it will be very hard to shine behind the Tahs pack. Lolesio will get a lot more chances to show what he is capable of when it comes to impressing for Wallaby selection.

          Agree that Penney still holds a share of the blame, but he has had to start from a long way back courtesy of Gibson’s apparent lack of interest in recruiting well to replace key players as they left the squad.

        • Ads

          Yep agree with all of that. Harrison looks like a test style 10 (not necessarily test quality – dunno). Doubt he will get a look in with JOC (still a 12 for me) and Lolo (a good player worth developing with a different style).

        • Who?

          Recruiting home talent should be easier in Covid (given it’s madness to want to leave Oz right now – though that didn’t stop Rodda, Hockings and Lucas), but…

          The Tahs have faced a long march of players moving north as they’ve reached the end of their careers. And whilst those players have been there, they’ve been losing. It’s hard to recruit to a losing team. If you’ve got a losing team full of ‘stars’ and Wallabies, then recruiting players to come when the stars have left – leaving an even lower likelihood of winning – isn’t easy. Which means you need to build from youth. But that needs to be an ongoing process – something which should’ve started under Gibson to have any chance of having any success in the next year or two.

          Beyond that, the Tahs (and all teams) have an even greater challenge for recruitment. Funding. When the Tahs had all their long term players coming off contract, they were facing major financial challenges and the code was going through its rights deal. Which sees them 7 figures under the salary cap this year. If you’re trying to sign professional players to new deals and you can’t guarantee the financial viability of the game, you’re going to struggle. It should have impacted all teams, but it seemed the Tahs had more players coming off contract at the end of 2020 than most. Combine that with the terrible trajectory, and you’re left with a forced long term rebuild.

        • Ads

          Yep agree with all of that. And it will be hard to dig out of. I was more trying to say for someone like Skelton/Coleman (both!) – where would you prefer to live – Sydney or some Covid riddled hole? Then NFJ et al need to sort the cash.

          I think if they had a marquee tight-head and a good 1-2 second rowers, that would make a big difference.

        • Who?

          Hard to disagree with you on where the Tahs are lacking (though their 6 was also manhandled by Tate on Friday – that’s never a good look for a blindside!).

          With regards to Skelton/Coleman/etc, I think it was purely financial. Didn’t we spend literally half of last year debating about whether the game could afford to continue to be professional in Australia? Seems the Tahs had less faith in the game’s ability to remain professional (or at least their ability to wriggle out of contracts if the game was no longer professional) than the other provinces.

          I think Penney deserves more opportunity than he’s had so far. It’s hard to blame the coach when the issues largely look to be recruitment and talent retention based on finances. I mean, 1500 caps gone in the last couple of years… Their most experienced bloke now is probably Dempsey, who’s also off at the end of the year.

        • Geoffro

          Eh.happy to see some of the young Schuters get a shot,(though,at 27,I s’pose Grant jnr is no sprung chicken).The young ranga looked pretty assured when he got his hands on the ball but since we have a fair 10 in Harrison he probably wont get much gametime.Just need a bit of time.

        • Who?

          I thought those two really helped with cohesion. I thought the back up scrummie cleared the ball quickly and more accurately than Gordon (some of the passes from Gordon to Harrison looked like they’d never played together before), and the young redhead had good hands and added more cohesion to the backline. I agree – some time, and maybe some more grunt up front, and it’s not all lost. It’s just a starting point that’s behind much of the competition. Well, the teams that Tahs fans consider to be competition (given the lack of respect regularly not given to the Force and Rebels).

        • I sort of half agree about Penney. I mean, he hasn’t set the world on fire, but he inherited a squad that flogged its star players (whatever I personally think of their quality) and didn’t develop their replacements – look at Harrison and the way he got odd minutes, and then starts scattered across his time there with Foley in front of him. Look at how 10’s in just about any other franchise/country are developed with regular 20-30 minute run outs at the end so they develop their playing time, and then more frequent starts as well.

          If it was one player, you ought to be able to cope, but it was basically 2/3 or more of the starting squad… and poof. With Hooper running off to Japan that’s a load of players to replace. Recruiting and giving experience to that many players quickly… not easy. Just look at the Reds and how they struggled if you want an example.

  • Dally M

    It’s absolutely ridiculous that they have had to switch that fixture. The players are already operating in a biosecurity bubble and there is no community transmission anywhere in Australia!

    • Nutorious

      I’m sure that the state governments are working off a risk analysis, and to be fair, have been spectacularly successful relative to the western world. I am sure this bubble would be safe, but rugby is not as socially or economically relevant as other sports, or industries and an easily workable alternative was available.

      • Who?

        The McGowan government’s border closures have been the most political with their border closures. All states have been at least a little bit political, but Victorian McGowan understands that there’s always a strong secessionist undercurrent in the state and a questioning of the external. And they’ve managed the virus well internally (like all states other than Victoria). Their state election was farther away than any of the others (this month), so of course that meant that the political requirements of border closures (“We choose who comes here, and the manner in which they come!” It works for both parties) were extended longer there than other states.

        It’s interesting to see the NRL demanding early access to the vaccine for their players, when their players don’t have to travel across the great wall of WA.

        Just sucks that, like Jacinda (who required the ABs to quarantine upon returning from Covid-free Australia and their bubble inside Australia), WA doesn’t seem to consider the bubble, and, less like Jacinda, doesn’t have the same concern for Rugby as other codes.

  • Hoss

    Well, well, well.

    I turn my back for one minute and all the ‘Tah’s Doomsdayers’ have come out to play.

    Listen to me you lot – I have two words as to why Gods-own will not come last this season and why hope springs eternal – ‘Force & Rebels’

    Let’s face it, the Farce are only back cause we want Twiggy’s money and I personally like him for rescuing RM Williams from the clutches of those fuckers who thought purple suede boots and jeans rolled up with no socks from delicate metrosexual’s was ‘the future direction of the brand’ – how’d that work out for you fuckers!. And also they’re back for the same reason you invite a dim second cousin to your wedding, you feel sorry for them and it makes you feel superior.

    They haven’t won a game since around 2017, when the Tah’s were robbed in a shocking display of refereeing, they’ve recruited second rate FISMS and some Irish pensioner ‘McGuinness’ somebody and are even money for the spoon – again.

    As for the Frebels – where do you start? Poor coach. Shitty city, no money, no forwards, no heart, skill, direction or clue. To be frank most of the side think they are an AFL club and the 16 season members who attend home games do so out of pity.

    The Tah’s make the finals by default!!

    A third choice Tah’s half-back is better just by natural selection and NSW breeding than a first choice half-back from whatever other states exist in Australia. Mad-Dog Swinton will soon be back and let loose on the powder puff forwards he opposes. We have pace and size to burn out wide and the pack will be better for the run.

    Which leads me to this weekend.

    Unfortunately, I have been to Canberra. I’ve visited the seedy, slimy sex district and when I left Parliament House I then went to Fishwyck. I’ve been to the monuments and museums and blahdy-blah-blah. The thing is, The TB XV have nothing to play for, they don’t represent the place as they’re all rugby Gypsies, many not good enough for the Tah’s although they seem at least smart enough to stay away from Melbourne and that western place. They have no rugby soul, so deep connection and it shows in how they play – robotic, boring, joyless and depressing.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if we run away with this one comfortably against The Ted Bundy XV and by plenty at that.

    Then we will see who is ‘second choice’.

    Vive Le Tah’s

    • Crescent

      Apologies Sir Hoss – always ready to be set straight, as I once told Israel.

      • Hoss

        Actually, where is that list. From memory it had something on it about blasphemers.

        Cue Monty Python.

        • Yowie

          Atheists is the closest you get to blasphemers. As such, you can mouth-off (etc.) about deities and sacred things as much of your like, as long as you believe in at least one deity.

          A better-written list to keep fine-print-reading types away from sin would have said “Warning, hell awaits the following types of people (without limitation):….”

    • Ads

      Well Hoss – that is some outstanding polishing of turd! I stand re-edumacated.

      • Hoss

        I prefer the more accepted ‘spin’ thank you.

    • Reds Revival

      Geez Hoss, you’ve taken the run up from the long boundary there.
      On the positive side, the captain (whoever that is), will get plenty of practice with their rev up speech behind the goal posts this season.

      • Yowie

        It will be interesting to see the end-of-season KPI stats on “meters charged from behind the goal line during opposition conversion attempt.

      • Damo

        They’ve had a couple of video sessions this watching old footage of the Al Baxter grimace. I think they will be using it quite a bit.

      • laurence king

        The Reds of 3 of seasons ago were in much the same boat so here’s hoping the coaching staff
        and players are given time to improve.

        • Reds Revival

          This is NSW we’re talking about. Any rebulding longer than a month is considered incompetence.

        • laurence king

          I fear you’re right in that regard. Lamentable isn’t it?

        • Reds Revival

          Absolutely. They could become a powerhouse again if they had the patience to build from the ground up. Unfortunately, the expectation of instant results means that they will go through a regular churn of both players and coaches until someone can sell the long term vision (think Reds post Link).

    • Dim witted second cousins eh?
      Where is that 2017 link again…

      Keep the Faith Hoss, I’m sure we all need a belief in something

    • RedAnt

      Nice to have you back, Hoss

    • Tah Tragic

      God damn it. Now I have to return my new boots and buy some socks.

      Anyway, heading down to Canberra this weekend to watch the game. Hope the Tahs can last longer than 3 mins this time. They are making me look good.

      • Hoss

        Incremental improvements my boy. 5 minutes of dominance this week will be a 67% increase in dominant performance over last week. It’s all relative.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Fuck you are on fire today old boy

      • Hoss

        Up for it today big unit. I’ve even challenged Tiger Woods to game of golf, as I believe his is pretty average at driving.

        • Yowie

          His ex wife has a pretty aggressive driver swing apparently.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Too soon? I dont fucking think so!

    • Keith Butler

      I refuse to rise to your bait Sir! Unlike the 3 flatties I took from the Tamar this morning. A bit like the Tahs, they were under sized so I had to throw them back to get bigger.

      • laurence king

        Sir your fishing problem is one of location. Great Oyster Bay is a much better place for flahead.

    • That’s not fair when I’m meant to be getting ready for work.

      I just have to hope none of your prose carry through to what I’m meant to be writing!

      Brilliant. In these times of equality, I doff my cap, because with this back and these knees if I tried to curtsy I’d never get up again.

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks Nathan, rough on the Rebels, more time in Canberra is never welcome. Great to see a resolution and hopefully Covid won’t step in and stuff that up again later on. I guess all bets are off though and we just wait and see. I just hope it doesn’t stuff up the TT competition later on as I’m really looking forward to that.

    Big call on the Tahs 9 and I hope he has a good game. As so many have said there seems to be real issues within the club for this situation to be allowed to have developed. I see there are some blaming us Kiwis again and if it make them feel better good on them. I think it goes deeper but I guess we’ll see.

    Interesting call for the RWC on a longer tournament to give players more rest time. Although, I see some of the private clubs in the NH are already complaining and talking about not allowing their players to have so much time away. Could get messy if this isn’t resolved.

    Smart TV’s and internet sounds like a good solution to me. That’s how I watch it at home and it was fine

    • Yowie

      Tahs … there seems to be real issues within the club …. I see there are some blaming us Kiwis again.

      If New Zealanders are responsible for the decline of the Tahs, that puts me in a confusing conundrum as to what to think about each villain.

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        Just hate us all mate. We dont care

        • Yowie

          With no trans-Tasman rugby for a while and the Tahs in a bad way, it’s getting difficult to maintain the rage to be honest.

        • Greg

          Get with it KRL….

          “Just hate them”

          You are one of us now.

        • Who?

          I’m not sure he’s specified state allegiances, though… He could be saying he’s not a Reds fan?

        • Yowie

          It’s ok. Nobody is perfect.

        • KwAussie Rugby Lover

          Well one of both. Sometimes I just hate myself

    • Crescent

      In my defence KARL, I have criticised parties who happen to be Kiwi, they are not being criticised for being Kiwi (the old correlation does not equal causation defence). For the record, I suspect poor Penney will get hung out to dry for a number of factors that were never in his control.

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        As long as you leave baaaabaaara alone I’ll be ok

  • Reds Revival

    I watched the new Rugby Heaven show on Stan last night. Firstly, how good is it to have an analysis/discussion show about rugby again!
    Roz Kelly was much better than her awkward side line discussions. Tirinui and Harrison were excellent with their analysis and banter. Campo is terrible. I sincerely hope they don’t renew his contract after this year.
    Good discussion with Angus Gardner. They are making every effort to educate casual and new rugby fans.
    Still room for improvement, but a solid first hit out that will get better with time.

    • Yowie

      Cheers for these notices/reviews on other Stan rugby shows & games. I’ll have to look into them to get a bit more out of the subscription.

    • Anonymous bloke

      Yeah Campo was just awful. Everyone else was pretty good. Enjoyed the analysis and variety of content. Agree it’s a solid base with room for improvement.

  • Nathan Williamson

    We’re going to record another episode of The Dropped Kick Off in the coming days, send in your serious/funny/random rugby questions below

    • Reds Revival

      Hi Nathan, good to hear that a new podcast is in the works. A few questions for you to choose from;
      – What is the ideal makeup of the Reds backline?
      – How long will it take for The Force to click this season?
      – Should the NRC be reinstated to ensure future development of SR standard players?
      – The refs were whistle happy in the first round. Are we happy for this to continue until the teams adjust, or does it ruin the spectacle?
      That should be enough hopefully.

  • Juan_Time

    It will be interesting to see how the Rebels match up against the always improving Reds. The Reds backline looked sharp and Rebels have a mix of the experienced (Powell, To’omua, Hodge, Koroibete) and the untested (Ili, Anderson and Pincus). Rebs have very inexperienced front row bench and could definitely have done with Orr and Gibbon. Reds still have some forwards out (Lukhan, BPA, Wright) but still shows their depth. Rebels don’t have a lot of forward ball runners without Naisarani (Pone?).
    Worrying number of injuries for round 1 (DHP, Gibbon, Orr, Magnay, Isi, Skelton).

Rugby
@NathW1997

Loved rugby since the day I could remember, got the nickname Footy to show that, I watch Matt Dunning's dropkick every night before going to bed

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